Pep Guardiola rubbished claims Manchester City's patchy form this season will persuade him to seek pastures new, suggesting he a stay beyond the end of his contract is possible.

City host Chelsea on Saturday as they resume their title defence nine points in arrears of Liverpool, after Jurgen Klopp's runaway leaders beat them 3-1 at Anfield last time out.

Guardiola's animatedly fraught touchline demeanour throughout the contest, where he railed against key decisions that did not fall in his side's favour, arguably painted a picture of deeper discontent.

This is only the second time the 48-year-old has entered a fourth season in charge of a club, following his 2011-12 campaign at Barcelona, where they won the Copa del Rey, Supercopa de Espana, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup, but ceded LaLiga to Real Madrid.

A year's sabbatical followed before a three-season stay at Bayern Munich, and the manner in which events unfolded on Merseyside meant it was easy to draw parallels and presume the famously intense Guardiola was burning himself out.

"My last season in Barcelona, I won four titles. I'm sorry – it was not bad," he grinned when the comparison was raised before the game against Chelsea, who are a point and a place better off than City as they sit third in the Premier League.

"Okay, we didn’t win the league and, as always, I didn't win the Champions League, but it was good.

"And we played the best football we played in Barcelona in the last season because we knew each other. That was my feeling."

Guardiola reports a similar feeling of contentment when it comes to his current employers, bolstered by an affinity for the city he presently calls home.

"I don't have any reasons to move from here. I am incredibly satisfied to work with this club and these players and I want to help," said Guardiola, whose City contract expires in 2021.

"If the people believe I am going to resign or I am going to be sad for these results, for nine points behind, the people don't know me.

"I like this challenge. I love to be in this position. If the club wants, next season I want to be here. One hundred per cent.

"I want to live in this city because I know lovely people here and I want to work and live with them. I want to be here.

"It's not because I am friends with Txiki [Begiristain, City and ex-Barcelona director of football] that I am going to stay here for the rest of my life. I am sitting here because I win; if I don't win, I am in trouble. I know that.

"I am incredibly satisfied to work in this city and at this club. I want to help this club to get better. I still enjoy working with these players a lot and I would like to stay longer.

"If the club wants, I will stay."

Ederson will return from a thigh injury against Chelsea after the goalkeeper was a keenly felt absentee versus Liverpool, although City's long-term casualties still include Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane.

During the international break, the Football Association handed Bernardo Silva a one-match ban for a racially insensitive tweet he sent to team-mate Benjamin Mendy, while Raheem Sterling's clash on England duty with Liverpool defender Joe Gomez amounted to another unseemly episode.

This set of circumstances adds up to a sharp contrast with City's imperious march to a domestic treble last season and a 100-point haul in 2017-18, but Guardiola insists he always maintained a sense of perspective.

"A few months ago, people said, 'you can't do better; you are a perfect team' and I said all the time, 'nope'," he recalled.

"Football depends on the balance of the team and it is so flexible. Wow: be careful. I have the feeling we are not far, far away from the way we played in the last seasons.

"It would be easy for me to say we miss Laporte, Leroy and the other ones and that is why there is a nine-point gap.

"That would be poor analysis to get through and improve as a team. We have to find a solution. The big clubs always overcome the situations."

Having rejected any notion of finality around this phase of his City reign, Guardiola expressed a similar sentiment regarding the uphill battle to come in the title race.

"I know all around the world the Premier League is done," he added. "If that happens, we will try again next season.

"We have two options: give up or don't give up. And I don't think after the way we played, especially at Anfield, we are going to give up.

"We are not going to win, maybe, but we are not going to give up."

Moise Kean's stuttering start to life at Everton can be compared to how Liverpool regular Fabinho began his career at Anfield, says Marco Silva.

Kean was signed by Everton from Serie A giants Juventus for a reported fee of £27.4million (€30m) in the close season.

However, the teenager is yet to score a goal for the club, having made 11 appearances across all competitions so far, though only four of those have been starts.

He was left out of Everton's squad for the 2-1 win over Southampton earlier in November as punishment for missing the start of a team meeting, with Italy coach Roberto Mancini - who has dropped Kean for a similar lack of discipline in the past - subsequently advising the former Juve youngster to "find a club that lets him always play."

But Silva has confirmed Kean - who scored twice in Italy Under-21s' win over Armenia in midweek - will be in Everton's squad for Saturday's encounter with Norwich City, and has compared his first few months at Goodison Park to the struggles endured by Fabinho, who had to wait until late October to start a Premier League match for the Toffees' city rivals Liverpool last season.

"He wants to play more. Like all of the players we have," Silva told a news conference. 

"We have to look for him and all the games we have played and he has played. He has some starts in the Premier League, some in the EFL Cup, you are not talking about a player who didn't play at all.

"You have many examples of players with more experience than him coming to the Premier League and [at first] they didn't play.

"I think you have an example not really far, Fabinho, a player more experienced, a big amount of money, first six months, he didn't play. Most of the games he was in the stands.

"He's not the only example, I can give more, but the most important thing for Moise is to keep teaching him, for him to adapt as fast as he can. 

"Moise has all the support here. He has all the support from me, his team-mates. What is the most important thing is what I speak to him directly."

Jurgen Klopp has no problem with how England manager Gareth Southgate chose to handle the incident between Joe Gomez and Raheem Sterling.

Gomez and ex-Liverpool star Sterling were involved in a scuffle at St George's Park on November 11, the day after the pair clashed in the Reds' 3-1 win over Manchester City.

Southgate dropped Sterling for England's 7-0 win over Montenegro, a match in which Joe Gomez came on and was booed by certain sections of the crowd.

Sterling returned in the 4-0 victory over Kosovo as England wrapped up their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, though Gomez - who has insisted the matter has been fully put to bed - missed out with a knee injury.

Klopp expects Gomez to be able to play against Crystal Palace on Saturday if required, and the Liverpool boss is satisfied with how Southgate dealt with the situation.

"Gomez is better than good, everything is fine," Klopp told a news conference on Friday.

"If people are not sensible with it, it gets made bigger than it is and we speak about it for five weeks. The people involved are fine.

"Things like this happen in a football environment. It's a big challenge to ask the boys to give everything against each other and then the next day ask them to play together.

"There is nothing more to say about it. Gareth and the English FA dealt with it like I think it was right, I cannot judge because I was not in the situation. Joe is absolutely okay, nothing else to say about it really."

Liverpool's triumph over City at Anfield sent the Reds nine points clear of the defending champions with 12 games played.

Virgil van Djik should be available to feature for Liverpool against Crystal Palace on Saturday, though Jurgen Klopp has acknowledged Mohamed Salah is still struggling with an ongoing ankle problem.

Van Dijk withdrew from the Netherlands squad in midweek, citing "personal reasons", while Salah was not included in Egypt's squad at all.

However, Van Dijk is set to be at Klopp's disposal at Selhurst Park, as Liverpool aim to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League.

"In the moment, yes, Virgil is 100 per cent available," Klopp told a news conference.

"But it's the time of the year when players get out of the squad overnight, unfortunately, with some other things – getting sick or ill or whatever.

"From the others, I cannot say 100 per cent. Today is a very important session to judge that, especially with the players who came back late.

"Fabinho and Bobby [Roberto Firmino] and Alisson played on Tuesday, Gini Wijnaldum played on Tuesday, so we have these players where we really need to have a look at how they react and what makes sense for them or not.

"It's always how it is with the first game after the international [break], we have to wait until the last second pretty much to make the decision. Nobody came back with a serious injury or something like that but we still have to look how they are."

Salah, meanwhile, has been dealing with an ankle problem initially sustained in Liverpool's 2-1 win over Leicester City in October.

The former Roma forward missed the Reds' draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford, and seemed to aggravate the issue in a tussle with Manchester City's Fernandinho in Liverpool's win over Pep Guardiola's side at Anfield prior to the international break.

Klopp conceded Salah is still having some trouble with the injury, though said he had trained ahead of Liverpool's trip to south London, with a further assessment to be made on Friday.

"[Thursday] he trained. He trained the whole time since he was here, but only the things we wanted him to do," Klopp said.

"Today is another important session to see how it looks and we can make the decision. It's not that it got worse but it's still kind of there, that's the problem. We have to be sensible with things like this.

"But I didn't make the decision. If I would have made a decision, I probably wouldn't have told you now, but I have to see the session today."

Jurgen Klopp is delighted with Jose Mourinho's return to the Premier League, but is sure former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino will be in line for a top job.

Pochettino - who guided Spurs to four successive top-four finishes in the league and last season's Champions League final - which Tottenham lost to Klopp's Liverpool - was relieved of his position on Tuesday following a poor start to the campaign.

Spurs moved quickly to appoint ex-Chelsea and Manchester United manager Mourinho as Pochettino's replacement on Wednesday.

Liverpool's 3-1 defeat of United in December 2018 spelled the end of Mourinho's tenure at Old Trafford, and Klopp is thrilled to have his old rival back in the Premier League, though he has no doubt Pochettino will land another big job soon enough.

"Welcome back Jose. It's nice to have him back," Klopp, whose Liverpool side sit 20 points and 13 places above Tottenham, told a media conference.

"He was desperate, you could see in the time he wasn't in [management] but on the other side Mauricio is not anymore and it shows how quick things change nowadays.

"Around five months ago we played each other in the Champions League final and now he's on holiday, I hope he can enjoy it.

"He did a brilliant job at Spurs, nobody doubts, everybody knows that, a great guy, left and right of the game, I really enjoyed the challenge of playing against him, he was [the opposition manager] in my first game in the Premier League so we have a history together.

"Everybody knows all of the jobs, available or not available, Mauricio will be in contention, everything will be fine. It was a big one, when I heard it first I couldn't really believe it but then a couple of hours later they already had the solution.

"I hope he can enjoy the few days, weeks, months off, I do not know, it will not last long and then he will be back. Jose is highly motivated so that will be interesting as well."

While Mourinho's Tottenham stint starts with Saturday's early kick-off against West Ham, unbeaten Liverpool - who defeated title rivals Manchester City prior to the international break - face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

Liverpool and Netherlands star Georginio Wijnaldum believes the only option in the face of racist abuse in a football match would be to walk off the pitch and not return.

Wijnaldum was speaking after Excelsior player Ahmad Mendes Moreira suffered racist chanting in the 3-3 draw with Den Bosch in the Dutch second division on Sunday.

Moreira, supported by team-mates, left the pitch 30 minutes in after being subjected to abuse, with the referee then calling a temporary halt to the match.

The player scored after the game resumed and celebrated by cupping his hands to his ears in front of Den Bosch fans, leading the club's coach Erik van der Ven to brand Moreira a "pathetic little man" for trying to goad his side's supporters.

Den Bosch released a statement to apologise to Moreira if he felt "ill-treated", while the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) promised to investigate to identify the perpetrators.

For Wijnaldum, seeing a match in his homeland marred by racist abuse – as well as Nazi salutes, which he says could be seen in the stands – served only to show how much work must be done by politicians to combat such problems.

The 29-year-old, who also described the level of Den Bosch's response as "despicable", says the solution must be for players to leave the pitch following abuse and refuse to resume the match.

"It really hit me on a personal level," Wijnaldum told reporters on Monday ahead of Netherlands' final Euro 2020 qualifier against Estonia in Amsterdam.

"I never expected anything like this to happen in the Netherlands. I'm really shocked. It did happen, unfortunately, and the way people have talked about the incident really hurt me.

"It's a problem in society. As a player, you can't really change anything about it. But I still think that players should try and support each other. It's a problem in society and a problem that should be solved by our politicians.

"I hope that there will be severe punishments. This really can't happen again. It's not just the racism to the player from Excelsior, but I also saw someone doing the Nazi salute in the stands. When I saw that, I thought, 'What is wrong with you if you do something like that?'.

"Our ancestors fought for us so we can live freely. If people still perform the Nazi salute, that's utterly disrespectful. That just can't happen. We can't allow that in the Netherlands. That's what I think. There have to be severe punishments.

"I think the KNVB did well with their statement, saying that they will look into the matter and see what happened. But I think it's really despicable what Den Bosch did. I might not be allowed to say things like that, but I don't care anymore.

"I think we need to see very high fines. I heard that they want to install cameras to find out who the culprits are. The punishments need to be so severe that nobody even thinks of doing something like this ever again. We want to play football to enjoy ourselves, we want to entertain our supporters. We don't want to see things like this happening."

Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman interjected to say he would call for his players to walk off the pitch if such an incident were repeated.

"Someone has to be the first," he said. "We all think about it but, in the end, nobody ever acts on it. Everybody seems to avoid the subject instead of doing something about it."

Wijnaldum said the match between Den Bosch and Excelsior should not have continued after the abuse, saying players "need to stay away" after walking off.

"You shouldn't come back on the pitch. What is the point in coming back? What has changed? Everything just stays the same."

When asked what he would do if it happened in an international match, Wijnaldum replied: "I walk off the pitch. I'm going for sure. I'll never accept that. 

"We talked about it with our guys. Look at our squad. We are one. We don't look at skin colour. We play for the Dutch team, we play for this shirt, we play for the people. We play so we can entertain the people; we play so we can be at a big tournament such as the Euros again.

"We are so happy about qualifying and then this happens a day later. It's so surreal because those people that did this will be cheering for us if we perform well at the Euros."

Koeman says not enough strong action is being taken by national authorities, adding: "We are way too soft in the Netherlands. Everybody always says that we live in such a safe country. I don't think we do."

Borussia Monchengladbach star Denis Zakaria will not be leaving the Bundesliga leaders in January, according to his agent.

Zakaria has been linked with Premier League giants Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, as well as Serie A side Inter and German champions Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

But the 22-year-old defensive midfielder has no plans to leave Gladbach before the end of the season.

"Denis will not leave Borussia in the winter, a change is 100 per cent excluded," Mathieu Beda told Sport BILD.

"Denis is in very good shape in Gladbach and has been playing really well for weeks, but he still has more potential and he wants to show that in Gladbach now instead of dealing with a change."

Switzerland international Zakaria swapped Young Boys for Monchengladbach in 2017.

Zakaria has scored two goals in 11 matches as Gladbach top the Bundesliga table by four points during the international break.

Virgil van Dijk has been released from the Netherlands squad to face Estonia for personal reasons.

The Liverpool centre-back completed 90 minutes on Saturday as Ronald Koeman's side battled to a 0-0 draw in Northern Ireland, securing their place at Euro 2020 with a game to spare in qualification.

Top spot in Group C is still up for grabs heading into Tuesday's game versus Estonia at the Johan Cruijff ArenA, with Germany two points ahead going into their own match against Northern Ireland, although captain Van Dijk will not take part.

"National team coach Ronald Koeman cannot rely on VirgiI van Dijk on Tuesday against Estonia," read a short statement from the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB). 

"The captain of the Dutch national team has to [miss] the game due to personal circumstances and has since left the Oranje training camp."

Van Dijk's next engagement with Premier League leaders Liverpool is a trip to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Liverpool have offered support to former defender Dominic Matteo and his family after he underwent an operation on a brain tumour.

The 45-year-old, who also played for Leeds United, Blackburn Rovers, Stoke City and Scotland during a 17-year playing career, had an operation on Monday and is being treated in hospital after being released from intensive care.

Matteo emerged from the Liverpool academy and made his first league appearance for the Reds in October 1993.

He made 155 appearances for the club before joining Leeds, where he formed part of the team that reached the 2001 Champions League semi-finals.

A statement on Liverpool's official website said: "We wish Dom a full and speedy recovery and will offer any support we can to his wife and family.

"Dom's family would like to place on record their gratitude to all staff at Leeds General Infirmary and express their thanks for all of the messages of support they have received."

Liverpool pair Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson have been ruled out of England's final Euro 2020 qualifier against Kosovo on Sunday.

Gomez, 22, sustained a knock to the knee in training on Friday and will not travel with the rest of Gareth Southgate's squad, an England statement confirmed.

The injury caps a tumultuous few days for the defender, who was involved in a bust-up with Raheem Sterling earlier in the week.

Some fans booed Gomez when he was introduced as a second-half substitute during England's clinical 7-0 win over Montenegro at Wembley.

Southgate and Sterling expressed bewilderment over the treatment of the young centre-back and England will now be without him as the Three Lions wrap up their Group A campaign, having already sealed qualification.

Henderson was not involved against Montenegro after arriving in camp with a viral infection, which has not fully cleared.

"The pair have returned to their club meaning the Three Lions will head to Pristina on Saturday with a 23-man squad," the statement concluded.

Premier League leaders Liverpool will hope to have both players available when their title tilt resumes away to Crystal Palace on November 23.

Virgil van Dijk is focused purely on ensuring Netherlands complete the job and qualify for Euro 2020, not on Liverpool's Premier League title bid.

The Reds defeated reigning champions Manchester City 3-1 at Anfield on Sunday to open up an eight-point gap at the top of the table, with Pep Guardiola's side nine back.

Powerful centre-back Van Dijk was asked by Sky Sports whether establishing such a commanding lead made it feel like this season could see Liverpool end a 30-year wait for top-flight glory.

But Van Dijk will not look beyond Saturday's contest with Northern Ireland in Belfast, where a point will be enough for Netherlands to book their place in the Euros.

"I'm not gonna say that [it feels like Liverpool's year]," he said. 

"It's something for the media. For players the main thing is we focus on the game ahead of us. 

"For me personally it's Northern Ireland, it's a tough task. What happens with Liverpool in the future we'll see, we have no influence on it, the season is so long. My focus is on the next game, at the moment that's [with our] national teams."

Van Dijk could be joined in the Premier League by international team-mate Memphis Depay, with the Lyon forward linked with a move to Tottenham or a return to Manchester United.

Depay endured an unhappy 18-month stay at Old Trafford before moving to Ligue 1 in January 2017, but Van Dijk feels he would be an asset to any team.  

"He's a fantastic player, a very important player for our team here at the moment, wherever he goes in the near future it will be a good thing for him," he added.

"But he's still at Lyon at the moment you have to respect that, until things happen you have to see how they go."

Jadon Sancho could be about to spark a bidding war.

The England international is reportedly ready to leave Borussia Dortmund, a development that will have his numerous European suitors on red alert.

Manchester United have long been linked to Sancho, but could face stiff Premier League competition for his signature.


TOP STORY – SANCHO SEEKING DORTMUND DEPARTURE

Jadon Sancho has become unsettled at Borussia Dortmund and wants to leave, according to the Daily Mail.

The exciting teenage winger is said to have grown dissatisfied with life at Signal Iduna Park after being dropped for a Bundesliga fixture last month for disciplinary reasons.

Head coach Lucien Favre further tested their relationship when he withdrew the Manchester City product before half-time of the heavy Der Klassiker loss to Bayern Munich.

News of Sancho's decision to depart will be noted at Old Trafford, but the report claims Manchester United's bitter Premier League rivals Liverpool are also showing strong interest. 

LaLiga giants Real Madrid appear to be another potential destination for one of the continent's most coveted young stars.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sancho could be heading in the opposite direction to Leroy Sane. The Daily Mirror says Bayern Munich have reignited their interest in the Germany international, who has been sidelined since the start of the season due to a knee injury.

- Granit Xhaka is not the only Arsenal midfielder on AC Milan's radar. According to Calciomercato, the Rossoneri are even more eager to land Lucas Torreira, and will make a move in June after failing to prise him away from north London at the end of last season.

- Chelsea are set for another fight to keep in-form winger Willian as Juventus and Barcelona circle the 31-year-old, the Daily Mirror reports. Frank Lampard wants to keep the Brazilian at Stamford Bridge but Willian's contract is up at the end of the campaign.

- Manchester City captain David Silva could follow in the footsteps of Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres and David Villa by seeing out his career in Japan. Spanish television programme El Chiringuito says the 33-year-old is in talks to join Vissel Kobe following the completion of his 10-season spell at the Etihad Stadium.

- Leicester City and Aston Villa have been linked to Alfredo Morelos but Rangers are in no rush to sell. That is the assurance of the Scottish side's new sporting director Ross Wilson, who "categorically" stated that an annual loss of £11.3million would not impact the club's determination to keep their Colombian striker.

Lionel Messi has earned his first inclusion in FIFA Ultimate Team's Team of the Week this season following his stunning hat-trick in Barcelona's 4-1 win over Celta Vigo.

Barca – who went into the game having not won either of their previous two matches – appeared to be in a spot of bother on Saturday when Lucas Olaza cancelled out Messi's penalty.

But two stunning free-kicks either side of the break lifted a generally sloppy Barca and Sergio Busquets completed the scoring late on.

Messi is joined in the TOTW's attack by arguably Europe's deadliest striker in Robert Lewandowski, whose brace in the 4-0 crushing of his former club – and Bayern Munich's bitter rivals – Borussia Dortmund took him to a remarkable 16 Bundesliga goals from 11 matches.

Salzburg hotshot Erling Haaland is enjoying a similarly incredible campaign. The Norwegian youngster netted hat-trick number five of the season at the weekend, but he only takes a place among the substitutes.

Below, we examine the entire squad that is now up for grabs online.

FUT Team of the Week

GK: Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus/Piemonte Calcio) – 87

RB: Ander Capa (Athletic Bilbao) – 82

LB: Alex Telles (Porto) – 86

LB: Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) – 86

RB: Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City) – 84

CM: Nicolo Barella (Inter) – 83

CDM: Donny van de Beek (Ajax) – 84

LW: Dimitri Payet (Marseille) – 84

CAM: Radja Nainggolan (Cagliari) – 86

ST: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) – 91

RW: Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 95

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Ben Foster (Watford) – 83

CB: Sergiy Kryvtsov (Shakhtar Donetsk) – 81

LM: Mislav Orsic (Dinamo Zagreb) – 82

LM: Denis Bouanga (Saint-Etienne) – 81

RW: Patrick Herrmann (Borussia Monchengladbach) – 81

ST: Erling Haaland (Salzburg) – 82

ST: Rouwen Hennings (Fortuna Dusseldorf) – 80

RESERVES

CF: Henry Martin (Club America) – 80

LM: Victor Rodriguez (Seattle Sounders) – 79

RWB: Christopher Trimmel (Union Berlin) – 79

ST: Cyriel Dessers (Heracles) – 76

ST: Christian Doidge (Hibernian) – 75

Gareth Southgate can understand if Raheem Sterling is not "hugely enthusiastic" about him after dropping the Manchester City star for his part in an altercation with Joe Gomez, but is hopeful time heals any ill-feeling.  

England confirmed on Monday Sterling would not to be considered for selection when Montenegro visit this Thursday following a bust-up with Gomez.

The pair clashed during Sunday's Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool and were involved in an incident in a private area of England's St George's Park training base.

Details appeared in the media before England released a statement to confirm a row had taken place and that Sterling had been dropped as a consequence. 

Some former players have suggested Southgate had been too heavy-handed in his approach and the manager accepts Sterling may not be keen on him for the time being.

"Well, I wouldn’t imagine that he's hugely enthusiastic [about Southgate], but I can understand that," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"In the end, he's with the group, that's the most important thing. He's a massive part of what we do – has been, will be.

"He's with us for the game, he's back with the team on the training pitch enjoying his football. [He] trained superbly well, as he always does. So, for me, the thing is finished.

"I know, as a player, my relationship with my managers and how I felt about them changed day to day, and there were many occasions when I had the hump with them, usually when I wasn’t in the team.

"So, I understand that, I hope that time takes its course on those things. As a manager, you hope that you bring lots of good moments for players.

"There are those occasions where you give them their debut, you give them the chance to play, but there are inevitably occasions when you don't start them, where you have to take them off, and that will always be the landscape.

"I hope that all of my players know that, first and foremost, I care about them, that I want to be fair with them, that I want to do what's right for all of them, and that they can lean on me when they need me.

"And I also accept that, at times, they're not going to be bouncing with joy when they see my face walking through the meal room.

"So, that is part and parcel of being a manager, and if you're not up for that challenge, then [it's] better to go and do something else."

The Sterling and Gomez controversy comes just before a vital couple of matches, with England still to secure their place at Euro 2020.

Despite the poor timing of such a situation, Southgate insists life is rarely simple with England.

When asked if the past week had been the trickiest as England boss, Southgate said: "Most of them are pretty difficult weeks.

"I don't remember many… I don't know what a normal week with England would be, frankly. So, the key is always to go and win the football matches and that's where my focus has been for the last 48 hours and for the three weeks before that.

"So, any manager of any big club or big nation knows that all of those situations are difficult. We're under huge scrutiny for performance and everything else, so I haven't viewed this as any more or less difficult than anything else."

Harry Maguire insists there are "definitely no cliques" in the England squad despite the altercation between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez this week.

Sterling has been dropped for Thursday's Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro at Wembley after confronting England team-mate Gomez on Monday.

The two players had clashed the previous day, as Sterling's Manchester City were beaten 3-1 by Gomez and Liverpool, the Premier League leaders and the winger's former club.

Yet Manchester United defender Maguire is confident issues between players from rival clubs will not continue to dog England as they reportedly have in the past.

Asked at a pre-match news conference if there were any club cliques in the squad, Maguire replied: "No, everybody mixes.

"I think you've seen how good the unity in the squad is over the last couple of years. It's been a good two years and the group has grown together. We continue to keep on growing and that's really important.

"No, definitely no cliques. We all share tables and share jokes and laughs together."

England need just a point against Montenegro to qualify for the finals, where they would play a number of matches at their own Wembley home.

Maguire is hopeful, should the Three Lions' secure their progress, the home crowd can be a big factor next year.

"It would be really special to play in a major tournament and walking out at Wembley would be something that you dream of," he said. "People say it would give us a little advantage as well.

"We know that the crowd get right behind us at Wembley and the support over the last few years – especially since I've been playing – has been unbelievable.

"It's a big game [against Montenegro] and one that we're all looking forward to and we feel prepared for."

England's hopes at the Euros would also depend on improved defensive showings, though, with a number of individual mistakes hampering their qualification campaign so far.

Maguire added: "Obviously, we're coming off the back of a clean sheet [in a 6-0 win in Bulgaria], but we've conceded a few sloppy goals recently. I'm not proud of it and we're working hard on the training pitch to make that better.

"We know the firepower we have in our squad. We've got to a stage now where we're scoring near enough in every game, and we're creating problems for other people's defences.

"So my job and I'm sure all the rest of the defenders and the keepers as a group, we'll try to shut the shop up and start keeping clean sheets a lot more regularly."

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